How can I help students become familiar with their textbook at the beginning of the year?
Scavenger hunts are an engaging and powerful way to introduce new texts to students, no matter what the subject. In "Getting to Know Your Middle Grades Mathematics Textbook," teacher Diane Kahle shares a ten–question scavenger hunt that she uses with her required math text to help students learn how their text works and what kinds of information and support it offers. The questions can easily be adapted to fit any text.
I use scavenger hunts in teaching a course on children's literature to undergraduate students. In a slight variation of the scavenger hunt, I ask partners to work collaboratively because I find that peer discussion increases their knowledge of the text as well as their interest in the content. Like Kahle, I design questions that draw attention to features that are repeated in every chapter; and I require students to develop questions based on their particular interests. I've found that the following set of questions seems to spark a great deal of discussion:
Find an illustration or graphic in the first three chapters that looks interesting to you. What can you learn from the graphic and related caption? What questions arise from studying this illustration?
Questions like these, which engage students in analyzing their texts, help them not only to develop some interest in the content but also to set expectations about what will be covered in the course.
Taking a different tack, Jim Burke provides a series of outstanding and in–depth questions that can be used for evaluating a text in any content area and analyzing textbook features. Burke poses questions such as:
Does the textbook use color, symbols or icons to convey information? What features of the text would help you prepare for a big test?
These kinds of questions force students to become aware of the organization, features, and content of their text. Burke even takes student thinking beyond the features by asking them to consider what kinds of strategies they might use if they become stuck.
One more—and very important—reason for asking students to preview their textbooks is that, characteristically, math, science, language arts, and history texts are constructed differently from one another. Thus, we read a chapter in a science book very differently than, say, we read a piece of fiction, or a section in a math book, or a history selection. Every content–area text has its own challenges, and familiarizing students with their texts early on will help them meet those challenges throughout the year.
For Further Exploration
Bretz, Sarah, & Weiker, Erin. (2006, November/December). Student–tested suggestions for using textbooks more effectively, Adolescent Literacy In Perspective.
Null, Teresa. (2004, November/December). Make science reading fun and meaningful in middle school, Adolescent Literacy In Perspective.
Williams, Jeffery. (2006, November/December). Fostering comprehension in content–area reading, Adolescent Literacy In Perspective.
|10/5/2007 | Posted by |
Jackie Wissman worked at Indianola Elementary in Columbus Public Schools for ten years as both a classroom teacher and Literacy Collaborative Coordinator. She has her MA from Ohio State University with a focus on reading development. She currently teaches Adolescent SIRI and works as a consultant to provide professional development focusing on supporting struggling adolescent readers.
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